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Conference on Disarmament

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The Conference on Disarmament (CD) is the successor to various Geneva-based arms control bodies dating back to 1960. The first of these was the 'Ten-Nation Committee on Disarmament', comprising the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and a small balance of their Eastern European and Western allies. In 1962, the Committee was expanded to the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC), incorporating eight additional representatives from countries which declared themselves neutral or nonaligned in relation to both of the cold war blocs. A significant weakness in the early years was that two further emerging nuclear weapon states, France and China, remained outside the ENDC, although France had been invited to join. The ENDC was initially instructed by the UN General Assembly, and reported back to it. In 1969, it was enlarged to include eight more members, changing its name to the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CCD). Five more members were added in 1975. In January 1979, in conjunction with decisions taken at UNSSOD I, the CCD was enlarged again, and constituted as the Committee on Disarmament. It took the name by which it is known today, the Conference on Disarmament, in 1984.

The CD is regarded as an autonomous body, although it has a close relationship with the United Nations. The CD meets on UN premises, is serviced by UN personnel, and its budget is included in the UN budget. The Secretary-General of the CD is appointed directly by the UN Secretary-General and acts as his personal representative. The CD is supposed to take into account UN General Assembly resolutions on disarmament, especially where consensus has been obtained, but is not obliged to act on them. The CD sends its report to the UN and it is also taken for granted that the CD should transmit the texts of any treaties or agreements to the General Assembly to be formally adopted and then opened for signature. The US-Soviet co-chairs of its predecessors were replaced with a presidency that rotated among the CD member states every four weeks in alphabetical order.

France joined in 1979, followed, a year later, by the People's Republic of China, bringing the membership to forty. Following several decisions to enlarge its membership, the CD now has 66 member states. According to Rule 18 of its rules of procedure, "conduct its work and adopt its decisions by consensus." The CD currently interprets Rule 18 as conferring the power of veto on every member. Objectors to a decision are not obliged to give their reasons for opposing. Decisions are managed through a Troika comprising past, present and future Presidents, who work with representatives from three groupings, which are increasingly anachronistic hangovers from the Cold War: the Group of Western European States and Others (WEOG), the Eastern European States and Others, and the Group of Nonaligned States, still referred to as the G-21, although it comprises more than 30 states.

The CD inherited a 'decalogue' of 10 priorities from the First UN Special Session on Disarmament (UNSSOD I) in 1979, which is still regarded by some members as the basis of its work, although the programme of work has since been updated. Since concluding its negotiations on the CWC in 1992 and negotiating the CTBT from 1994-96, the CD has experienced seven years of virtual deadlock. In March 1995, the CD adopted a mandate to negotiate a ban on the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons - fissban, aka fissile materials treaty (FMT), aka fissile materials cut-off treaty (FMCT)

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